“It’s a political power grab,” says Andrew McKercher, chairman of Citizens for Real Term Limits in National City. His grassroots group formed in October as a response to a proposed ballot initiative that would allow Mayor Ron Morrison to run for re-election even though his three consecutive terms are up.
In the past 52 years — from 1966 to 2018 — National City has had only four elected mayors: Kile Morgan (1966–1986), George Waters (1986–2002), Nick Inzunza (2002–2006), and Ron Morrison (2006–2018).
Voters expressed their unhappiness with the lack of broader representation back in 2004 by passing Proposition T with 70 percent approval. The proposition imposed a three-consecutive-term limit for the office of mayor. Now, according to an October Union-Tribune article, allies of Ron Morrison want to repeal the proposition. Signed by Victor Barajas, Stella Sutton, and Sheri Hernandez, the ballot initiative would impose a limit of two consecutive four-year terms for mayor, city council members, city clerk and city treasurer.
Although that sounds reasonable, there’s one caveat. As National City’s city attorney, Angil Morris-Jones, explained in a phone interview, when a new ordinance is passed, the measure is only prospective. “The terms that you previously served do not apply.”
That means, if the measure gets on the June 2018 ballot and a majority of voters repeal Proposition T, Morrison can run for mayor and potentially serve another two terms in office.
A lifetime National City resident, Gloria Nieto said, “There’s people from the community that don’t think it’s right that something was passed and they want to get it back on the ballot. It was defeated 70 percent to 30 percent. Even Ron Morrison was for this. Now that his term is coming up, they want to re-do this resolution.”
Nieto, alongside two other National City activists (Alma Sarmiento and Marisol Natividad), submitted a second ballot initiative to the city on October 30th. Foremost, the measure would preserve the existing three consecutive terms for mayor. Morrison then would not be able to run for mayor after his term is up in November. The measure also would impose a limit of three terms for council members, city clerk, and city treasurer. Finally, to encourage more residents to run for office, the measure would limit elected leaders to a total of six terms for all offices combined.
Mike Dalla, the city clerk for National City, summarized the difference between the two initiatives. “The first one is packaged as term limits for everyone, when it’s really a repeal. The second one says let’s have term limits for everybody and keep the existing term limits for the mayor in place.”
Both groups have submitted the paperwork that allows them to go out into the community with their petitions. They now must obtain about 2300 signatures in order for their measures to appear on the June ballot. If either measure passes, it will go into effect for the general election in November 2018 when the mayor and two council seats come open.